By Linda Dillman
Looking to bump up auto license tag fees by $5, Canal Winchester City Council discovered the road department has a greater need than the potential $35,000 the additional fee could bring in.
Council is considering an ordinance to raise the license fee to the maximum amount allowed by the state. Proceeds from the additional fee would be used for road maintenance and collected by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles in Franklin and Fairfield counties starting in January 2015 for vehicles registered in Canal Winchester.
If approved, the city would join Hamilton Township, Madison Township, Truro Township, Columbus, Bexley, Grove City, Reynoldsburg, Westerville, Carroll and Lancaster in collecting the full fees.
However, the amount the city receives depends on the government entity initiating the fee. If it is assessed within Canal Winchester by another entity, the city only receives a portion of the amount, although residents pay the entire fee when purchasing licenses.
“If we do it first, we get the $5,” said Mayor Mike Ebert. “If they do it first, we only get a portion of the fee. If we do it ourselves, we get the money. Fairfield County passed it and we only get a small portion.”
According to Public Service Director Matt Peoples, $35,000 is approximately 10 percent of the street department budget in a given year, although projects like the annual street program can alone cost upwards of $363,000. Funding for larger endeavors comes out of the general fund, from bonds and Ohio Public Works Commission grants.
“We’re maintaining stuff at this point and we use OPWC extensively,” said Peoples. “We are not self-sufficient.”
Finance Director Amanda Jackson said the city spent $329,400 on streets in 2013 from its dedicated street fund. Council heard the first reading of an ordinance amending 2014 appropriations, which includes more funding for the department.
Council President Rick Deeds said the proposed fee increase warrants further discussion before full council and committee of the whole meeting on March 31.
“At one point, we had a tax for the roads—way back in the 1990s—that the citizens voted on, but it wasn’t renewed,” said Councilwoman Bobbie Mershon. “Maybe that’s a better way to go. Maybe we need to look at the bigger picture. The $35,000 doesn’t cover a lot. I want to see a comprehensive plan at the committee of the whole for the street department.”
Bed tax grants
Council approved awarding bed tax grants to several non-profit organizations.
“Once we finish getting this through finance, we need to fine tune the process,” said Mershon.
The Canal Winchester Area Historical Society and National Barber Museum/Hall of Fame received $10,000; Relay for Life was awarded $2,500; the Art Guild will use their $1,325 grant for costs associated with a May 10 Art Stroll; Canal Winchester Human Services/Community Food Pantry received $1,500 in support of annual events; and the Alumni Scholarship Association was awarded $2,000 for graduating seniors. City Rotarians intend to use a $2,450 bed tax grant to help defray the costs of bringing the Harlem Wizards to town for an April 10 fundraiser. Members of the Senior Citizens Club were awarded up to $1,500 for a planned Veterans Day Breakfast fundraiser in November.
Kramer Road parking issues
Kramer Road resident Arthur Libert is worried about the potential for a serious accident due to increased parking on his street influenced by the growth of the post office. He said a bus stop for children is also located nearby.
“We’ve had several issues of near misses when we try to get out of our driveway,” said Libert, who asked the city to consider marking a “no parking” area near his home. “If we had two spaces, it would give us a little more reaction time. I don’t want an accident to happen. I understand about setting a precedent, but the situation is a little unique down there. It’s a difficult situation. There’s a lot of traffic there.”
Deeds said the parking issue will be brought up at the safety committee’s next meeting on March 17.